I’m doing my first outdoor Spartan in “Indianapolis” (actually a good hour outside Indianapolis, but it’s close enough for jazz, glitter bombs, and the toilet of someone you don’t like) in two days. I’ve done one (as of the drafting of this post) or two (as of its posting) Stadium Sprints, but for those I just wore normal gym clothes and running shoes. But for the outdoor, in-the-mud kind of runs, I’d like to learn from prior mistakes.
See, at last year’s Warrior Dash, I wore standard first-timer apparel: cotton shirt, cotton shorts, and ancient shoes with no treads that I was ready to throw away. You can probably guess the results: I was slipping all over place, except for the places that were so treacherous that I had to sit down and slide down the muddy hill. Also, after the first mud puddle, I was basically running the race with my shorts around my knees. That may be an acceptable uniform for the shrubbery behind a rest area in Alabama, but it’s a bit of a party foul on a farm in Channahon, Illinois.
As a result, I’ve been acquiring some gear to try to prevent that from happening again. Now, one of the ways in which I’m weird is that I’m not enjoying the process of buying gear at all. It’s actually really stressful. I don’t know much about the gear, so I’m going online to research stuff. The trouble is, I do know about publishing, having ground 15 years worth of magazine sausage, so I also know that just because someone writes about something doesn’t mean that they know anything about it. I mean, I’ve paid my rent with non-existent expertise in caffeine, furniture-building, and modern library architecture, so it’s hard not to realize that most of what I read is probably bullshit.
The trouble is, this likely bullshit is the only information I have, so ultimately I tried to average it out and condense the recommendations down into something manageable. I ultimately decided to splurge on a compression shirt, compression shorts, shoes, and wicking socks.
The latter two, surprisingly, were easiest. I went to REI, not out of any particular brand loyalty but because my brother and sister-in-law gave me a gift certificate there for my birthday. (Their thought was that I would use it on climbing gear, as indoor bouldering is a hobby I’ve taken up this year link, but as I haven’t required any gear beyond the bit that I’ve already gotten, I feel like this is an acceptable alternative.) The saleswoman in the shoe department was familiar with the OCR concept and had some recommendations.
I tried a few on and picked the Salomon Speedcross 3s, because they felt good and because they were familiar from enough online gear reviews that I can hope that all of those reviews weren’t bullshit in exactly the same way. I didn’t go for the Smartwool socks that I’d seen a bunch of recommendations for; instead I opted for the significantly cheaper store-brand ones that have moisture wicking powers. I hope that doesn’t turn around to bite me in the ass of the blisters on my heel. (That metaphor holds together, right? If it doesn’t, I think I’m going to try to turn “ass of the heel” into a new term for blisters. It’ll be a thing.)
Compression gear was a bit tougher. An UnderArmor store recently opened near my gym, so I went there. But finding a shirt was surprisingly challenging. In normal clothes, I’m kind of on the XL-XXL cusp. But speaking of sausage, when I tried an XL compression top, that’s precisely how I looked.
The store also didn’t have any clear distinction between long- and short-sleeve tops, so wading through the piles to find the short-sleeves also took some time. And once I figured that out, they didn’t seem to have any short-sleeve XXLs apart from superhero or military-themed prints, neither of which I really wanted. I’m pretty indifferent to the Spidermen and Supermen and Green Lanterns of the world (although when the Green Lantern movie came out I went to see it with a friend, and we were worried about getting tickets so we paid extra to book them on Fandango, and then we got there and there was one other person in the theater, and the movie was terrible, so I’m opposed to Green Lantern) and I’ve got some issues appropriating military prints (which is the tip of an iceberg made of open cans of worms). A salesman did help me, though, and eventually we did find one solid-color short-sleeve XXL compression shirt.
Very stupidly, I didn’t bother to try that one on in the store. When I got it home, I did, and saw an obvious problem: The shirt is white happened to be white. I mean, I saw the issue with taking a white shirt on a muddy course in the store—I just didn’t care much. But when I tried it on, I realized that the white shirt was completely see-through. I looked like I had a tiny woman in a black bikini strapped to my chest.
And then, there’s the shorts. I should have trusted my instincts about how underwear-y they looked. As it turns out—and this tidbit of information didn’t emerge in my original searching for recommendations—there are compression shorts that are shorts and compression shorts that are underwear.
I’m not necessarily not going to wear those. They’re bigger than, say, the Speedos that I wore, bulging with pride, in my swimming days. But I can’t help this nagging feeling that it might be nice to wear actual shorts as shorts. The good news is, the compression gear is unsoiled and unharmed and the store permits returns. Unfortunately, that will have to happen next week (when I drafted this post) or today (when I’m actually posting it), which isn’t a week/day when I have a lot of time to spare.
If all else fails, I’ll just run the Indy course with my shorts around my ankles again. It might not be fast, but at least it will spice up the race photos.